From beach bars and family festivals to cocktail lounges and full-throttle party nights, Cornwall’s nightlife offers fun for all ages. Whether you fancy hunkering down in a country pub after rambling along the South West Coast Path, or want to let your salty hair down and dance into the après sea scene, there are plenty of ways to wind down: Sip a cocktail and watch the sunset by the waves, listen to beats by the beach, cast off in a party boat or sip a pint of craft ale in a cosy inn.
In recent years Cornwall’s festival scene has burgeoned, luring international headline acts to incredible venues where you can dance with your toes in the sand. The hottest date on the festival calendar is Boardmasters, a five-day extravaganza that takes over Newquay with a world-class surfing competition, beach gigs and a huge cliff-top festival arena hosting big-name music acts including Florence and the Machine in 2019. Fast growing in popularity is Perranporth’s Tunes in the Dunes, which has seen Billy Ocean, UB40 and the Stereo MC’s take the stage and promises another stellar line-up this year.
The newest of the festivals is The Great Estate – Cornwall’s most rambunctious garden fête – which returns to the sprawling grounds of Scorrier House with world-class music, a silent disco in the woods, a vintage car rally, a Victorian-themed sports day and a well-being area with a private swimming pool. Meanwhile Bude’s independent Leopallooza festival – described as the greatest house party in a field – has invited The Vaccines to headline an exciting cast of bands and artists from the UK and beyond. Bringing a world-music twist to the festival scene, Tropical Pressure brings the rich cultures of Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean to a celebration on the cliffs at Porthtowan.
Cornwall’s most established garden party is the Port Eliot Festival – a quirky, fun and creative gathering on the banks of the Tamar, where you can rub shoulders with literary stars, rock stars and foodie wizards, enjoy outdoor cinema, go wild swimming or dance in the big tops. A much smaller affair is the Rock Oyster Festival, which lures foodies and music fans to a summer party beside the Camel Estuary. Meanwhile the Little Orchard Cider And Music Festival is not only big on cider and sea shanties, but also hosts some of the best bands emerging in the UK.
Tipped as one of the most stunning venues for live music in the country, Lusty Glaze, on the outskirts of Newquay, hosts a series of Sundowner Sessions throughout summer, where the likes of Newton Faulkner and Morcheeba have taken the stage by the waves. Come winter the live music heads inside Lusty’s beach bar for cosy woodburner sessions, featuring some of Cornwall’s much-loved acoustic acts. This private cove is rivalled by the unique venue of The Eden Project, where summer’s Eden Sessions are often sold out well in advance and attract international megastars like Blondie, Björk and Massive Attack.
The hottest date on the festival calendar is Boardmasters, a five-day extravaganza that takes over Newquay with a world-class surfing competition, beach gigs and a huge cliff-top festival arena
A tipple by the waves
In a county surrounded by ocean, there are plenty of places to enjoy a tipple by the waves as the sun goes down. Arguably the coolest of these is still the legendary Blue Bar in Porthtowan, where rolling surf and cracking sunsets are the backdrop to drinking, dining, live music and comedy nights. Also vying for the honour of Cornwall’s best beach bar is The Watering Hole in Perranporth, where you can chill out surfside for the sunset, fight the seagulls for your fish and chips, then dance until the early hours to top British bands and DJs. The Watering Hole’s series of summer concerts, Bands In The Sands, have featured everyone from The Darkness to Jools Holland, and Ziggy Marley has already been announced for 2019. Not far from the Watering Hole is the new Alcatraz bar and cafe, where you can soak up those sublime sunsets from a stylish cliff-top setting. Another venue fast gaining a reputation for its surfside sounds is The Surf Den at Sennen’s Beach Bar, where DJs take over the decks every Friday and Saturday evening throughout summer.
If it’s rolling surf and rocking nightlife you’re after, you can’t beat Newquay’s line-up of bars and clubs backing its world-class surfing beaches. Boogie the night away at Fistral Beach Bar’s silent disco, sip cocktails with a view in Barefoot Beach Bar, then dance the night away at Dead Famous Liquor Lounge or Whiskers. If you’re looking for somewhere a little more sophisticated, seek out the hip Tom Thumb speak easy, where expert mixologists serve premium cocktails and hold master-classes and tasting sessions. Or sample the finest Cornish spirits and craft beers at the boutique 55 Yards Bar and Bottleshop.
If you prefer a more serene setting for a sundowner, you don’t have to stray far from the bright lights of Newquay. Perched on Pentire Headland, at the southern end of Fistral Beach, take a seat on the terrace or warm your cockles by the fire at the Lewinnick Lodge. This revamped 18th-century cottage has posed as a smugglers’ den and a lobster hold, and is a sublime spot to see the sunset over the swarms of surfers on Fistral Beach. However, if you are prepared to explore further off the beaten track, wind up The Atlantic Highway to Trebarwith Strand (near Port Isaac), where you can sip local ales while looking out to the rugged coastline from The Port William Inn.
Although you don’t get the breath-taking sunset on the south coast, there are plenty of cool hangouts where you can still enjoy beach views. Lounge on the decking at the Gylly Beach Café in Falmouth, where there are also regular music nights with tunes spilling out onto the sand. At the Godolphin Arms in Marazion you can sip fine wines and local lagers while you drool over Mounts Bay and St Michael’s Mount, and since the addition of a huge glass-fronted extension, you don’t have to rely on blue skies to soak up the scenery. Skip along the south coast to surfy Praa Sands and follow the footprints from the beach into the trendy Sand Bar, where you can clap eyes on jaw-dropping views from the decking or through the long-drop windows.
If it’s rolling surf and rocking nightlife you’re after, you can’t beat Newquay’s line-up of bars and clubs backing its world-class surfing beaches